Art designers or aspiring art design students will want to pick up Mark Salisbury’s new look at creating sets, costumes and props for a world of the future in Elysium: The Art of the Film. Incorporating commentary from the up-and-coming science fiction director of the geo-political sci-fi thriller District 9, Neill Blomkamp, this new large format hardcover delves into the creative process from early ponderings to the imagery that made it to the final film cut.
Like listening to the first demo tapes of your favorite band or scanning the rough sketches of your favorite artist, taking a peek at the development of Hollywood magic through various aspects of a film can teach you a lot about a designer. Watching the development of a cyborg exo-skeletal costume from inception to final crafted piece challenges the reader to agree or disagree with what is cut and what isn’t. What physical elements, like utilitarian tubes and pipes, plastics or metals, make us think of the visual “future”?
Blomkamp’s work brings with it a signature questioning of wealth and poverty, the powerful and the powerless, and he does this with the backdrop of a science fantasy posing as science fiction. It may be Blomkamp’s own street cred–having one of the only science fiction films nominated for an Academy Award on his resume–that allows him to get away with creating an impossible orbital station without explaining how it could possibly work. Blomkamp says he sees himself first as a visual artist more than director or writer, and he credits bringing together the right creators to help implement his vision. With his new film Elysium that meant bringing in the team from the Weta Workshop, famous for their designs in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films. The book includes concept art from Weta designers Christian Pearce, Aaron Beck, Ben Mauro, Leri Greer, and Stuart Thomas. Also notable is the contribution to Elysium by Blomkamp idol and classic sci-fi designer of Blade Runner and Tron, Syd Mead.
Being a book highlighting the visual, Elysium: The Art of the Film has relatively little text, but what it contains by way of development of hand weapons, scouting for locations, revealing how star Matt Damon ends up as a borg, and what makes a cool-designed robot and slick future cars, all make for an interesting compilation of ideas. It very much mimics an artist’s notebook or idea log. One two-page spread highlights advertising logos used to create the feeling of reality for moviegoers, and each looks like it really could be a trademark for some technological–or mundane–future business. The book is smartly segmented by Earth and Elysium, mirroring the story elements that divide the bleak future from the utopian future–and all seem to be carefully crafted and well-planned.